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Jun 19, 2014

Rakitic wary of Mexico talent

ESPN's expert panel discusses Group A and the upcoming match between Mexico and Croatia.

Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic said he is not underestimating anyone in the Mexico squad for their Group A clash on Monday (4 ET).

Monday's game will not be easy for Croatia as the Europeans need to win if they are to get through -- a draw would send the Mexican team through to the knockout stage.

"We all know Mexico are a good team. It's clear that Mexico has a strong offence, and a solid defence, so we must rise to the challenge. We both want a spot in the knockout stage, but only one team will go through," Rakitic said about the match in Recife. "It is important to know that we need to win, we need three points and we will do our best. We know Mexico play well, but we need to win."

Rakitic, who has agreed a move to Barcelona from Sevilla this summer, knows Mexican players well from the Spanish league, particularly Giovani dos Santos from his time at Villarreal.

"Yes, I know them well. Giovani stands out from the rest -- he is a player that can win a game -- but Hector Moreno is also a great player," he said.

The former Sevilla captain praised Rafa Marquez after his stint in Barcelona: "He looks 10 years younger, he never gets tired. He has been playing at the highest level for so long. He is a key figure in their team, he opens up a game. We must keep an eye on him. Besides, he is the captain, the leader, the one who pulls the strings. He deserves full respect. Mexico are a great team and we are going to fight. Hopefully we can win."

Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa's heroics against Brazil and two clean sheets from their first two games come as no surprise for the Croatia midfielder. He said he has discussed this with Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, who knows Ochoa well.

"Ochoa's good performance has come as no surprise. I share a room with Daniel and he knows him from the French league. We recently talked about him. Hopefully, our goalkeeper will also have a good day."

Rakitic said that signing a deal with Barcelona during the World Cup did not provide special motivation, and added that he does not require encouragement to play better for his country.

"Playing for my country is enough motivation for me, that is the most important thing of all, and I don't need extra motivation (like playing for Barcelona). Being in Brazil is a dream come true. Right now it's not the time to talk about the club."

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